Appalachia Civil War Letters

Washington County East Tenn March 12, 1863 Letter 6

Gettysburg, Pa. Three Confederate prisoners

Gettysburg, Pa. Three Confederate prisoners – Library of Congress

When we last checked in with W.C. Penland he seemed kinda down but still determined to fulfill his duty. He was sick with a bad cold, he spoke of deserters, and a friend who thought the counties of Clay and Macon had forgotten him.

Today’s letter was written just a few days after the last one I shared.

Washington County    East Tenn

March 12, 1863

Dear Mother

I seat myself this morning to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well hoping that these few lines will find you and all of the family well    we come in from the Greasy Cove yesterday to Johnson Depot    there has been a good deal of rain here lately and the waters are very high    we aimed to go to Zollicoffer but we can not get there until the water falls    I was sorry to hear of Uncle Maturnic Moores death but it is a debt we all have to pay    and there gone where there is no more war and distress there    the health of our company is tolerable good at this time    James Crawford is a little better the last time I heard from him    I do think that he ought to have a furlough    but he can not get it all I do not think    it is said that he started to go home which I expect he did    but it was when the small pox was reported to be in camp    he met some of the boys and came back willingly    he had been sick for a long time and was very timid and easy excited    the doctor Moore signed a fourlough but the Colonel would not allow it    Uncle Wyly has resigned his Surgeonship because he and the Colonel could not get along together    he was very well liked by nearly all of the men    I was not in camp when he started   I want you to make me some mixed Jeans    to make me a coat    my coat is worn out and either make me a coat and send it by the first chance or send me the Jeans and I will have it made    I do not care which    if you make it the same fashion as Capt Moores as you can    I do not want any other clothes a the present    I must bring my few lines to a close at present but remain your affectionate son as ever

William C Penland

Address Zollicoffer East Tenn

65 NC Regt B

Things I noticed in this letter:

  • W.C. was feeling better.
  • He wrote: “I was sorry to hear of Uncle Maturnic Moores death but it is a debt we all have to pay and there gone where there is no more war and distress there” sounds like he had witnessed enough pain to know death would have it’s benefits compared to fighting in the war.
  • He used the word Jeans-like cloth.

Hope you’ll leave me a comment with your thoughts about the letter.


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  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 30, 2014 at 12:13 am

    To Richard Moore-I’m sorry! I was just trying to help. I have no stake in this issue. My relationship to any party is about as far apart as you can get and still be in the same species. It really is none of my business.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    August 29, 2014 at 8:13 am

    To Ed Ammons, I agree that Dr.B.W. Moore was James Gilmore Crawford’s half-uncle. I’m not denying the connection. He was also James W.Crawford’s half-uncle.
    Both men were children of Dr. Moore’s half-sisters–James G. Crawford of Lorena (or Lurena)Moore(b1806)and James W. Crawford of Rachel R. Moore (b.1809). Both married men named Crawford.
    The rolls list a Private James W. Crawford in W.C. Penland’s company. That was my primary point.
    With the great number of children produced by John Moore’s two marriages, the mountains were crowded with nephews and nieces.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 28, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    and Ed….Well, I got it half right, I said Ball Mason…In fact Mason was in very early production 1858 at the beginning of the Civil War…so the object could be a very nice pressed glass tumbler.
    I do have a couple of Civil War era clay storage pots…that you sealed with wax…now then that would be a trip to carry! Mine is slave made signed by the maker and was dedicated to a person, perhaps owner or teacher with the persons name on it and dated 1829..Nope it ain’t for sale!
    I have always called glass jars Ball Mason jars…don’t know why just did. I have a yellow Mason jar and a brown Ball jar…freaky colors. The weird ones I have collected came from Canada with open topped metal lids.
    If you could have seen the Blue jars out of my Great and Grandmothers basement you would have thought they had been in a Civil War!!! LOL
    Thanks Tipper, and Ed…

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    August 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I did some checking online and discovered there was a Private James W. Crawford in the same company with W.C. Penland. Raises the chance that he was the half-nephew of Patience and Dr. Benjamin Wiley Moore born 1838 and a cousin to W.C. It would explain why the letters always include an update on James Crawford.
    Odd to gain so much info on my family here. I am the Great Grandnephew of Patience Penland, Benjamin Wiley Moore, and Maternic Moore and my grandfather was born in 1861 in Clay County and was a toddler when this all took place.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Benjamin Wylie Moore was James Gilmer Crawford’s uncle. Benjamin’s gravestone in Franklin has the y in his name, so W C’s spelling might indicate his education rather that ignorance.
    Benjamin W Moore is listed as a physician in the 1860 Macon County census. B W Moore is a physician in the 1880 Macon County census. I haven’t found him in 1870 yet.
    I have a couple of links that convinced me of connection of the Crawfords and Moores from Macon with those in Clay County. &
    Uncle Johnny is John Moore Crawford and Virginia, his sister in law is the widow of James Gilmer Crawford. Uncle Johnny’s death certificate shows Lou Moore as his mother. Lurena Moore is the daughter of John Moore and Martha Covington. Half sister of Benjamin Wylie (Wyly) Moore.
    I am not considered a serious researcher by anyone but the connection seems obvious to me.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    August 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    To Ed Ammons, one other possibility for the James Crawford is James W. Crawford born 29 Oct 1838 son of Rachel Moore (b1809) who was Patience’s half-sister and married to a James Crawford in 1837.
    It is unlikely (but not impossible) that a person who had been a Captain in another unit would have ended up later as a private a year later but not impossible.
    If James W. Crawford is our sickly friend of W.C., he survived the war and lived until 1895 having raised a family of eight.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Tamela-I have no clue LOL : ) I found the photo on the Library of Congress website and thats how it was titled. All good questions though : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    b.Ruth-It could possibly be a mason jar but not a Ball. Ball didn’t start til around 1880, when Mason’s patent ran out.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Could the James Crawford mentioned here be Capt. James Gilmer Crawford 1832-1889? James was the son of George Washington Crawford and Lurana Moore.
    Enlisted as a Captain on 25 Mar 1862 at the age of 29.
    Commission in Company I, 39th Infantry Regiment North Carolina on 25 Mar 1862.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    August 28, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    This is a very interesting letter and especially appreciated the comments by Don Casada and Mike McCain who are fellow researchers of the Moores. Reading it I thought of the mother of W.C. Penland Patience Moore Penland(b1820) and all of her losses during the war. The latest letter refers to the death of her younger brother Maternic Chesterfield Moore (b1830.
    Patience had already lost her older brother George Washington Jones Moore (b1818) who like Maternic died in 1962 of disease while in Confederate service. And also in 1862, she lost her youngest brother Elisha Warner Moore (b1833). Not certain if he was in the Confederate Army or not. And soon enough, she would lose her son W.C. Penland. Three brothers and one son all in little more than a year. I knew that Benjamin Wiley Moore resigned his commission due to disputes with his colonel. W.C. says in the letter that Doctor Moore signed a furlough for the sick James Crawford but the colonel wouldn’t allow it. Could this have been part of the dispute that caused the doctor’s resignation? It is possible this James Crawford was also Moore kinfolks but I have not yet tried to verify that.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    August 28, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I am surprised he knew of the death so quickly. I would have thought the letters would not have come so quickly. Imagine not having a warm coat. Bless his heart.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    about the picture: if these men are “prisoners”, what is restraining them? They seem packed and ready to travel.
    Was the smoke in the background the result of military action?
    about the location – perhaps a place where logs were turned into timbers?

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 28, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Did anyone notice among the strong timbers and men (although taken prisoners) the single fragile glass sitting on the single one by two board. It appears to be a one pint Ball-mason jar. Could it be placed there by the photographer to represent the fragility of life among the strong tree logs, timers and men!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I love the composition of this photo! I wonder if the photographer was as interested in taking a meaningful picture or just there to document the event!

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Interesting that jeans type cloth was available back then. I didn’t realize that could be used for uniforms. He showed compassion in his letter, very mature realizations and allowed family to know he was okay. Fascinating history!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Jeans I don’t think meant the same during the Civil War as it does today. Jean cloth was a mixed type of cloth. “I want you to make me some mixed jeans.” I may be dead wrong, but I think he wants his mother to weave him some mixed fiber cloth to make his coat out of, or she could just go ahead and weave it and make the coat and send it. From my understanding, back in the day “jeans” was a mixed woven fabric of strong fibers similar to a cotton twill.
    W. C.’s Mother must know what Captain Moore’s coat looks like. Example, so she would know the color to dye the cloth, and placement of collar shape and buttons. It would not be cool to dye the cloth the color of the enemy!
    I hope he got his coat. Maybe that is why he got so sick early on. A consistent chill of the body enhances the sickness! Can you imagine having to fight, travel in the rain and cold without proper clothing.
    Loved these letter,
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Pamela Moore
    August 28, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Jean cloth during the 19th century was often woven with a cotton warp and woolen weft in a 2/1 twill. Would have made a light weight, but warm coat.

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    August 28, 2014 at 9:27 am

    “Jeans cloth” was the most common cloth made on the old-fashioned looms. My great grandfather was a hosteler in the CSA when he died of measles near Richmond, VA. I have seen some letters he wrote home that sound a lot like Penland’s.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 28, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Uncle Maturnic was Maturnic Chesterfield Moore, the younger brother of WC’s mother. He died on Feb 24, just 16 days before WC wrote this letter, not having reached his 33rd birthday.
    He had enlisted in Company B, 62nd Regiment, formed in Clay County. His captain was his older brother, Norbonne West Moore, who I believe is the g-grandfather of Blind Pig reader Richard Moore.
    In the 1850 census, Maturnic (for which various spellings can be found) is listed as “Turner” – which sheds insight on the source of his name; his grandfather (John Moore’s father) was Aaron Turner Moore.
    According to “North Carolina Troops 1861-1865, A Roster” Private Meternich Chesterfield Moore was reported absent sick in Clay County on Dec 31, 1862 and Feb 28, 1863.
    Of course the keeper of those earthly records wasn’t aware that as of a few days before that last report, the Keeper of eternal records had listed his debt paid, and present and accounted for where, as WC noted, there is no more war and distress.
    W.C. would join him a few months hence.
    Maturnic is buried in Union Hill Cemetery in the Elf area of Clay County, alongside his parents and W.C.’s parents.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 8:58 am

    That’s interesting about calling the fabric ‘jeans’…I wonder if any of your readers have seen that before?

  • Reply
    August 28, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I love the cadence of W.C.’s writing, giving us a vivid glimpse of the daily struggles he observed and experienced.
    I’m picturing a new denim coat, if that’s what the jeans cloth was. I like to think he received it, but have my doubts, considering the length of time for the letters to arrive.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    August 28, 2014 at 8:34 am

    We have it so easy. His is one of thousands of similar stories from all the wars. Thanks for posting….but it will haunt me all day.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    August 28, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Maternic Chesterfield Moore was born on October 1, 1830 and died on February 24, 1863. He was my great-great-granduncle. He is buried in Union Hill Cemetery in the Elf community in Clay County along with a bunch of my Pattons, Penlands, and Moores.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 28, 2014 at 7:34 am

    I am amazed that letters were written under conditions, sent, delivered, and preserved for our present perusal and amazement. These are sad communications, but tell us how very important these were in keeping family ties, hope–and even help (as family providing needed clothing) alive. Despite the sadness, a spirit of love and caring is a part of the letter’s impact.

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